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With trade deadline a month away, Ben Cherington says Red Sox still focused on 2014

06.28.14 at 8:46 pm ET
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NEW YORK — For now, this represented the most sensible option. Shane Victorino isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, having been pulled off his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket while recovering from an epidural to relieve the discomfort in his lower back. For now, the trade market hasn’t matured to the point where there would be a quality right-handed bat and dynamic player capable of giving the Sox some facsimile of what they hope to get from Victorino.

That, in part, helps to explain the decision to bring up Mookie Betts, a player whose athleticism, instincts and on-base abilities offer the possibility of on-field energy in the batter’s box, on the bases and in the field. But the arrival of Betts doesn’t mean the Sox are going to foreswear the trade market.

“I think we’re looking at every way to improve the team. It’s still probably a little early for the trades to start happening and so based on Mookie’s performance and our confidence in him, we felt like this move makes sense now,” said GM Ben Cherington. “It won’t necessarily preclude us from pursuing other things. But this is what we’re doing today.”

The call-up of Betts represents an effort by the Sox to see if they can make some headway in a postseason picture that is anything but promising. The Sox are eight games behind the Blue Jays in the AL East and seven games behind the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card, with seven teams separating them from the M’s.

Nonetheless, Cherington said that as the team explores trade possibilities, it remains “focused on 2014. We’re trying to look realistically and be honest with where we are ‘€” I’m not sugarcoating where we are. It’s not where we want to be. We’ve created a deficit for ourselves. But we still think the deficit is one we can overcome. We still believe in the talent, we believe we can be a good team this year. So that’€™s what we’re interested in doing, is trying to be as good a team as we can. If at some point, the picture changes, then it changes. Then we’ll have to adjust at that point. But we’re not at that point yet.”

Given the suggestion that there could come a point where the team’s focus shifts from helping the 2014 team to helping the team beyond 2014, Cherington pointed to a number of variables that could change the team’s outlook as July 31 nears.

“It’s a combination of where you are, how many games you have left to play, what talent we have, what talent we think is potentially attainable ‘€” throw it all in a pot, mix it up and try to make the best decision,” said the Sox GM. “If at some point, one of those factors changes or multiple factors change and the whole thing looks different, we’ll react to that. Right now we’re focused on just trying to get better.”

Cherington didn’t dismiss outright the idea of “selling” (which implies removing players whose foremost contribution is short-term in exchange for those who can help in the longer-term), but he did suggest that it was something of an oversimplification to say that the Sox would fall entirely within either category. There are ways, for instance, that the team could sell short-term assets (players under contract only through 2014, for instance — a category that includes the likes of Jon Lester, A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and Koji Uehara, among others) — while using the players from those trades and perhaps prospects in the organization to acquire players who can help in 2014 and beyond.

“I think we’d be allowed to do whatever we think is in the best interest of the Red Sox,” Cherington said when asked if he thought the Sox would be permitted to sell. “I understand we can put potential moves into one bucket or the other. We can put moves into the seller bucket or the buyer bucket, and I get it. But I’m not sure every move falls neatly into either of those buckets. We’re going to try to make the organization better and the team better. We think we can do it this year. We’ll see if we can. If that picture changes again, we’ll have to adjust. I think everyone here knows roughly what we need to get better, and that’€™s tomorrow and maybe three weeks from now and maybe a year from now. We’re going to look to get better in those areas.”

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